better sort of

We made it to September, and these twins are nine months old and Arbor is now five and the puppy is rapidly approaching 4 months old, and no one has died. Granted, we are still a little shook from our salmonella ordeal. (Guess who has it now! Hint: she’s been wearing everyone else’s bodily fluids for the past…um…5 years.)

But, all things considered, I’d say we’re thriving.

My half-marathon training has come to a screeeeeeching halt. I’ll be lucky if I can manage a half-mile walk this evening. I fought so hard this past week; I cleaned and I cleaned and I washed my hands eighty billion times a day. I took vitamins and ate superfoods like it was my dang job. But alas, I succumbed and I fell. I am weak and shaky and burpy. I shan’t go into more detail, but if we’re keeping score, I’d say it’s my 0 to salmonella’s 13.

It’s early September in Oklahoma which means sunflowers and bonfires. More cardigan mornings and less 105 degree afternoon runs.

Sometimes my husband and I dream of having a farm with sheep and Scottish Highland cows, and a workshop-art studio combination barn where he makes furniture and I paint it–it’s this time of year especially that makes me wish that dream had come true already. One day y’all.

One day.

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having all the fun

It’s been an exciting week in the land of parenting living breathing kids of varying ages with distinct personalities, huh?!!

I feel ever-so-slightly spread thin. Teens and their insane schedules, and hey–fun with underage vaping! Should I trust but verify, or just not trust and not verify, or trust but not verify? And how about that moody, still-adjusting pre-k-er? The two year old who climbs pantry shelves and tortures the dog? The twins who Gollum-crawl all over the place licking the floors? And that low-maintenance 11-year-old ray of sunshine who will turn high-maintenance in 2 seconds flat if I don’t start paying attention to him?

And about licking the floors, Indie has “somehow” contracted actual salmonella, which has had her writhing in fever and stomach-cramping-agony, and bleeding like crazy. It’s been as horrible as it sounds and the worst part is, I have no specific flipping idea how she got it, other than…I don’t know. Maybe jacking with the trash can one day while racing around in her walker? Did perhaps the puppy lick something unsavory and then lick Indie?

Duncan is halfway down too, which is unsurprising, since they slobber all over each other’s belongings and faces. Lucy may have a mild case as well. Or not. Man, I don’t even know. These kids have always been hardcore–and I do mean hardcore–poopers. It is known.

This is all a bit overwhelming, but last night, as I was washing a five-foot tall stack of dirty dishes from dinner, I felt a calmness and a sense of gratitude wash over me, because this IS the life I wished for: a farmhouse in the country and a butt-ton of kids and all their dishes, and a mountain of shoes by the front door and laundry that won’t quit and baby gates blocking everything everywhere all the time, and schedules plastered on the fridge and skateboards on the sidewalk and string cheese wrappers all over the house, topped off with a healthy dose of teen angst and mild rebellion, all while I drink hot bleach and mop up explosive diarrhea and puppy pee for an indeterminate amount of time. I’m living the dream. I really, really am.

Update: Indie is on the mend now: fever-and-bleeding-free.

In other news, I got my hair done and now I am officially addicted to red:

On the running front, I could do better, as in I haven’t moved my legs off the living room floor in a whole seven days. But these past few weeks have slayed me, so I’ll have to kick it into high gear another time. I’m doing that half-marathon in November, so help me–I was just kind of hoping to not slug my way through it.

Either way, I do love a good long run on a gravel road with no one vomiting all over me.


Whippersnapping 101

Sometimes I get rowled up.

It really do be like that.

One might call me “the sword in the darkness”, or the shield that guards the realms of men; the cat with the spoon, or, most accurately, “the lame stay-at-home-and-snitch-mom with no life and nothing better to do than run her mouth and take heat for it.”

The truth is that I am all of those things but mostly I am a lady who doesn’t know what she’s doing half the time but gets super worked up about the general health and well-being of her children. FIGHT ME.

A few days ago, I reposted a little video about the dangers of vaping. I may or may not have also off-handedly mentioned somewhere in the ensuing comment thread that kids are doing it in the locker rooms (and bathrooms and classrooms and hallways and parking lots, according to multiple sources, including daughters, sons, teachers, parents, and students I’ve talked to over the last year or so) (which does hearken back to yesteryear–ah, memories of my own idiot friends smoking real live cigarettes behind the gym, under the bleachers, and on the actual front steps of the school building…but I digress.)

And because I’d hate for people to assume the repost came from nothing more than a raging case of Facebook balls, and also because it’s important to, I don’t know, not vape through 3 juul pods a day at 15 years old, I’m writing.

Man. I think our kids need our help.

To parents, I want you to know that I am no stranger to teenage deviance (read: Caleb & Toni, 1994-2015…ish) (read also: my oldest daughter, who is an untouchable stone-cold Rebel); nor am I under any delusions that my own young children are beyond (at the very least) dabbling in mild-to-wild shenaniganry. I get it. Because teenagers, amirite?

Here are some things I will consider murdering or grounding (I’m undecided) my adolescent offspring for: smoking. Vaping. Doing either of those things on or near school property. Doing either of those things around other people in closed spaces: 1) How inconsiderate of your own health. 2) How inconsiderate of others’ health. 3) How stupid because have you ever heard of getting caught and suspended and kicked off teams? 4) How rude because have you ever heard of others getting punished in the same way simply by being around you while you’re being stupid enough to do it?

Anyway.

But to the younger crowd, I would implore you to take a good long listen from someone who knows how to roll up a fatty

of fellowship and fun

and from someone who loves you because you’ll always be the cute little sweeties I knew with backpacks that reached down to your calves, and braces and double-inverted French braids and acne and knobby knees and elbows and bright eyes, contagious giggles, and big dreams; and because you’re the future of our community, and I know for a fact you are stronger, smarter, and more capable of making better decisions than I ever did at your age.

Lesson #1:

If you throw a raging party complete with drugs and alcohol way out in the country by a creek, half a mile from any house but still manage to thump your bass so loud that it rattles the windows of the house HALF A MILE AWAY and wakes up the old crotchedy pregnant-with-twins lady of the house–who is already having trouble sleeping–and who, upon being woken from the first thirty minutes of decent sleep she’s gotten all week, can also hear your drunk girlfriends’ cackling from (again) HALF OF AN ENTIRE MILE AWAY, please, please EXPECT to have someone (4 separate homeowners in the immediate area, including the pregnant lady, her neighbor with four kids in bed asleep, the folks that live up on the hill on the next MILE block over, and the old farmer down the opposite end of the road) to call the cops. Don’t act shocked. Don’t get mad. Next time throw your drinking party and make out in the muddy cornfield quietly, geez. Or maybe just go sober mini-golfing and call it a Saturday night well spent.

Lesson #2:

If you’re at a party such as the one mentioned above, leave early before all of the neighbors call the cops, because they will, because obviously.

Lesson #3:

If you do vape, maybe vape in the privacy of your own home or car, not in a wide open doorway to, say, any random building on school property, where literally any fool driving by can actually see you and the vape in your face. I can’t with you. I love you, but I can’t. This is just not smart. In my day, folks expertly sneaked around in the shadows with their grody real cigarettes and still weren’t surprised if they got busted, because someone always finds out.

Lesson #4:

Someone always finds out.

Dang it, they always do. It’ll make its way through the grapevine, or someone will see you and go directly to the highest authority, or someone lame (IT ME) will risk social suicide and write vaguely about it and get all the other parents up in arms. And oh, hey, guys? The teachers know. I am friends with 17 teachers at last count and, my goodness, so many of them are already onto you it’s not even funny. You’re not hiding it well. Know who else will be able to tell? The doctor, when your folks take you in for a checkup because you’re sick for the thousandth time, or because your jaw exploded. One of the two.

Lesson #5:

I’ve said this before: vaping is just not cool. It’s not rock’n’roll; it smacks of douchebaggery of the highest accord. You might as well frost your tips, throw on a Tap-out shirt, and jump into your used faded-burgundy PT Cruiser with bull testicles hanging off the bumper blasting mediocre pop hits from 2013. If you would like to read up on things that are cooler than vaping, I’ve compiled a short list, feel free to add to it:

  • Head lice
  • Any sport
  • Any scholarship from any sport
  • Any of your friends
  • YOUR MOM
  • Sequined ball caps
  • Guinea pigs
  • Headgear
  • Chevron-patterned anything
  • The word “Litty”
  • Pitbull’s cover of “Africa”
  • Throwing loud parties in the country by a creek
  • The loogies (aka nicotine babies) people hock up from wet lungs
  • 90210 reboots
  • Butterfly tramp stamps
  • Brown lip liner
  • Pinworms
    Hobbs and Shaw
    Mom jeans, Fanny packs, and crocs (apparently these things are actually cool.)

I could go on but I’ve made my point.

We all have better things to be doing than vaping or confessing that head lice is cooler than anything. For instance I could be writing about poopy diapers but no, instead here I am with a horrible case of diarrhea of the mouth (or the fingers? No idea) and I can’t even wrap up sweetly with “Shine with the light of Christ” because somebody’s gonna accidentally catch their face on fire with a vape pen, and I’m gonna feel bad.

*****************************************

If you need help quitting, call me or text me or message me or send me a handwritten letter in an envelope with a stamp. 99% of the adults you know care about you more than you realize. I will text you hilarious quitting memes. I will cook you food and we can paint a picture and go for a country road run, and watch The Office while I get you hooked on coffee.


it be crazy

School started this past week. Arbor’s in Pre-k, which means a huge change in household dynamics Monday through Friday from 8 to 3.

Lucy is running the joint–I want to say she’s power-tripping a little bit, but surely two-year-olds can’t be intentionally bossy.

I thought she’d miss her big sister more, but she is taking every opportunity to play with every toy and sit on every chair with every blanket and watch every movie while eating all the snacks. She’s reveling in her rightful place as queen of the living room; in five days she has become more assertive, more rambunctious, more talkative, and more cuddly. She is now the star of the show, and I am loving the sheer cuteness of it all.

Duncan and Indie are crawling and teething and not really sleeping.

They do love their walkers and I am thankful for the ten minutes I can put them down in them so I can eat or go to the bathroom. Duncan is tipping the scales at 23 pounds, while Indie remains a “petite” 19. Their nine-month-old mark is fast approaching; they remind me of this with their perfect execution of the alligator-death-roll, among other evasive maneuvers, whenever I try to hold them for any reason.

(My back is breaking, send help.)

Arbor loves school. She has 115 best friends at last count, according to her. She can spell R-E-D, and she is utterly fascinated by her teacher’s whistle. Struggles are few, but her biggest complaints are napping with her shoes on, and sweating on the playground. No word yet on whether or not she has attempted to employ world-domination tactics on her fellow classmates.

Merrick is in 6th grade this year which means he should technically be in the throws of middle school awkwardness.

He is not.

And Mia, finally back from her travels, has officially started her sophomore year of high school (only to once again miss another day due to sickness, and yet another two days still due to the softball coach’s fondness for signing up for tournaments during school hours.)

It’s whatever.

That’s the social media spin on the last two weeks. Truthfully it’s been a very, very rough go here at the house. The teething and sickness have taken a toll on all of us, for sure, but just the general ages and phases of the little children have me (and Merrick, my ride-or-die sidekick, bless his heart) a bit (a lot) well…shell-shocked.

For instance, I never imagined how many times I would see this meme played out in real life:

Indie loves to hurt Duncan, I think. It’s like her sole purpose in life.

Kids.

I’m not really joking here: the constant, and I mean constant, crying/screaming/screeching/shrieking/shouting/tantrum-throwing/running/tumbling/banging/you-name-a-sound-they-make-it, can be stressful, but the catastrophic events of life with preschoolers, toddlers and twin babies are downright crushing and debilitating, and these kids will break a man.

Example: Last week I was getting ready to run dinner to a friend. I put Indie on the ground alone, in the safety of her room on her carpet, while I dashed Duncan over to the stroller to get him into his car seat. Two seconds into the three-second buckling process, I heard a long, shrill and throaty scream coming from Indie. I ran into her room to discover Arbor (formerly busy in the living room) standing over a bloody Indie, who was face-down on the concrete.

Yes. I died.

Turns out, she had barely picked Indie up off the ground when Indie wriggled like an alligator, and was dropped 8 inches right onto her face. She had bloodied her poor little nose. I resisted the urge to bear-scream at my 4-year-old, who was hysterical by that point, and cleaned Indie up; changed her clothes and mine, and went on delivering meals, only to get home and put all the crying children and babies to bed. Then, and only then, did poor Merrick and I give ourselves permission to bawl our eyes out as we tightly hugged each other.

Three days ago, while I cooked dinner and Merrick emptied the dishwasher, Lucy tried to hang onto the front of Duncan’s high chair with him in it, sending them both crashing to the ground, skyrocketing household decibels to dangerously high levels, giving me and Merrick legit matching heart attacks–but thankfully, bloodying no one.

And.

I’m just…we’re just battle-worn, guys. Just plain out battle-worn. Merrick cannot handle one more accident I don’t think; and my face has never twitched so much.

Going anywhere…it’s not happening. (Like, ever.) Commitments–I can’t keep them. (Therefore not making any new ones.) Important papers, not signing them. (No hands-free seconds.) Phone calls, ignoring them. (Can’t hear you. Seriously cannot actually hear you.)

Caleb reminds me that this is our season; that camping-out-on-the-living-room-floor, sippy-cups-and-pull-ups, two-pots-of-coffee temporary season; and that skipping or cancelling things to take some quiet family time is okay, but the mom guilt is so real and strong. I have so very little mental or physical energy left to give to my older kids that I feel like they’re being epically failed and deprived. I can’t make it 15 minutes into movie night, I don’t have time to play legos, I don’t come to the games, I can’t wash the uniform without six days’ advance notice; I pack their lunches and send them out the door in the morning–“Good bye and good luck!”–and that is that.

Real talk: Sometimes I can’t even remember where they are or what they’re doing. And I apologize to every mom I ever privately criticized for being out of the public picture.

Stuff I never thought I’d let slip has slipped–oh how it has slipped.

And I find myself bonding with my older two over how exhausted we all are from the crisis-management that is 4 kids under 4. I’m worried they’ll never want to have their own babies after living in the midst of this madness.

I love them all, and I’d be lying if I said that even in all the crazy there weren’t golden moments, though.

Each little soul growing up in my house, in my care–I hope and I pray I am doing right by them, as right as I can.


carriers

I went running today. I made it 2 and a half miles before I had to consider calling an unnamed unlicensed driver to come and pick me up (no word on whether or not I followed through with that consideration, or if said person considered my consideration, or if she did or did not laugh at me for the condition she hypothetically found me in on the side of the road). It was a brutal 104 degrees outside, and my 5-mile dreams quickly disintegrated in the blazing sun, right along with my will to live. I had to take a full five minutes to untangle a rogue mutant grasshopper from my hair; also I lost six pounds of bodily fluids (not sweat).

Just in case you’re wondering what it’s like to live through an Oklahoma August.

My sweet little church building is a welcomed sight on many of my runs. I try not to make it a habit, but I have been desperate enough a time or two to make a pit stop there. Once, in my most unrecognizable and alarming form, I rang the bell to the offices and was greeted by Deanna, the church secretary. She was the most beautiful sight I’d ever seen when she opened that door for me, mainly because I had to pee so bad that I was nauseous, but also because she’s beautiful. Deanna was gracious, and welcoming; caring, and understanding. She offered me water, and a cool place to sit, or a ride back to my house. I declined politely (after I all but elbowed her in the face to get to the bathroom), but I was so grateful for even the brief respite from the heat.

That particular day, the church, for me, was a refuge–from the burning hot air and the smell of melting asphalt, the rocks in my shoe, the aches in my lungs and legs. And Deanna was the picture of hospitality (and mercy, because LORDT I almost died.)

I’ve always appreciated the comforting imagery of a church as a shelter, a welcoming and safe escape from the brutal conditions of the rest of the world. I love the church. I love the people. I love the God who created it. It is a comfort. It’s a light. It’s a gift and a it’s a privilege to be a part of it.

I like to think that if it were me answering the door to our church building, that I would be calm, cool, and Christ-like like Deanna. But what about the doors to my own home? I do remember with a certain amount of shame the time I chased away the traveling book salesman with just one scary look from my eyeballs. (Fine, Bookman, you can come back even if I will never buy any single thing.)

I want to hashtag “be-the-church”, and I want to love with the most wide-open of arms, but my self-preservation game is fierce. I like my Jesus in a moderately-sized, predictably unchanging box, and I especially like nobody expecting jack-crap from me.

The church I go to is small. It’s nice knowing every face in the pews (still working on that, because we are new). It’s nice to be recognized. But, when there’s 100+ in attendance, things start to get a little less comfortable and familiar and I start to wish things would just stay the way they are.

It feels wrong to wish that.

It is wrong to wish that.

The church, by nature should be an inviting place; an inclusive place. I must be inviting, and including, and welcoming–and not just in a designated building on Sunday mornings.

But I do wonder if a church body that seeks to stay the same becomes stagnant.And I wonder if a stagnant church is a declining church. And maybe a declining church is a dead church.

A dead church can’t be a light in the darkness.

Lord, help me to not hold so tightly to my own comfort and security, that I become a hindrance to the physical and spiritual growth of my church, contributing heartily to the death of my community’s light. Help me want to welcome the outcast and the sinner. Help me to seek them out and take their hands.

Because the Church is not so much a shelter from the world as it is a shelter for the world.

His Church isn’t here to feed me Indian tacos and punch, or entertain me on Sunday mornings with all my favorite songs sung in my favorite style; nor does His Church does not exist to ferry me back and forth to Branson in my old age.

His Church was not created so my children could be kept quiet in another room for three hours once a week, or so I could have a place to stop and use the restroom on a long (ok, short) run.

P.S.: All that stuff is really cool, for sure, but my point is that none of that is the point.

The people in my church weren’t given new life to further bless me and my extra-blessed self.

The church was designed to reach the lost and the hurting and the lonely and the hopeless; to carry on the good news from one generation to the next, so that we can all worship God with our whole hearts, together.

The Church is holy because Jesus is holy; and the people in it are representatives of Christ…may I be remotely worthy of that description now, and fifty years from now.

I can’t tap out because I’ve done my time, or my kids have softball, or the music isn’t my preferred jam, or because my choice of carpet color got down-voted, or because I didn’t get recognized properly for volunteering in any given area for a certain amount of time. Church is not about me, not even a little bit.

Not while people are out there running in the heat with the grasshoppers, y’all.

The Church IS the actual hands and feet of Jesus Christ, and the hands and feet of Jesus serve and love with every breath, until their dying day.

The goodness that comes from Christ is in us; He is the Hope of the World, and by extension, so are we. We are carriers of the light.


a life without fathom

It was about this time last year that Caleb, Mia, Merrick, and I were driving back from THE ultrasound appointment, the kids singing exuberantly along to Starship’s “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now” because they were getting both a new brother and a new sister–and me, snarfing French fries in the front seat because, twins.

That moment has cemented in my brain as one of the happiest memories of my life.

Twins! I knew with all my heart they were my Duncan and Endellion (Bye forever, Ben and Ollie!) and I’m aware that I talk about it a lot but two babies at a time is MA LYFE. This past year has been an actual Cat 5 whirlwind, but like on fire. TWINS. I have four kids under four. Plus 3. Who let this happen, who?

Who.

I remember thinking–back in 2012 before all this madness, when Merrick was getting ready to start school–that life was about to get so much easier. No more little babies screaming. No more breastfeeding or baby food; no more canine acquisitions, no more car seats. I was going to work and make money. I was going to wear cute clothes and lipstick. was going to run and lose weight. We were going to travel, and oh! The pictures I was going to take and upload to social media!

I was going to be a calmer mom then, with perfectly vacuumed floors, and this was going to make me a cooler person in general and my husband would love me more and I’d have more friends if only I could just get all the kids in school during the day so I could concentrate on bettering myself and cleaning my house.

I don’t know what changed. I remember having Arbor and being very much extremely done; but then God booped us with a crazy wand because we effectively doubled our kid count within the last two years alone.

It’s absolutely insane here. Someone is always hungry (me, half the time), someone is always crying (also me), and someone is always, always naked (honestly this could be anyone).

We got another dog, rounding us out to an even 4. Dog hair is the new furniture and flooring.

And let me not bring up the dirty little secret our family has that everyone knows about but nobody talks about OKAY I’M TOTALLY GOING TO BRING IT UP: Babies spit up, like, so much. And dogs? Well…they follow me around when I’m carrying a baby for a reason, and it bothered me for a while but now I ain’t even mad, I’m just like “whatever, thanks for cleaning.”

IT HAS COME TO THIS Y’ALL. This is my life now and I admit, it’s a new low for me, but…

I’m happier than I have ever, ever been. I’m busier. I shower less. I wear makeup less often. I do my hair maybe once a week. I have worn more human fluids on my person in the past yet then I have in the past decade. The general clutteriness of a six-kid family would work 2013’s Pinterest Toni smooth into a panic attack. (But seriously, THE CLUTTER.)

I wasted so much time striving and straining to attain the golden suburban standard: so much time wasted. I drove myself nuts. I limited my own happiness. (I’d say I stifled God’s creativity but we all know God is not stifled. But He is very creative.)

I have zero minutes for a lot of busyness that takes away from my family, but I do try and make time for the most important stuff: Reading “The Foot Book” to Lucy all day every day. Letting her pray 15 times over lunch. Teaching Arbor how to train a puppy. Letting her comb my hair. Making peanut butter and honey sandwiches for all the children in the world. Giggling on my bed and playing my dulcimer with Mia. Building with Legos and watching Marvel movies with Merrick. Cuddling chunky babies.

Begging Cheyenne with my eyes to move back to Oklahoma and open up a bakery:

Painting a picture. Running (horrendously). Texting hilarious memes to my friends.

Going on hikes with my husband.

My point is, nothing is how I planned it or dreamed it or hoped it a decade ago, and nothing at all is perfect, but it is the most best incredible life I never even knew I needed.

Book the hotel. Eat the cake. Grab your friend’s hand and pray for her even though it’s awkward. Go to church. Sing the songs; sing them loud. Love the people. Have the baby. Have another one. Adopt, because why not. Get the dog. Stand back out of the way and let God do absolutely senseless ridiculous things with your life, and then praise the crap out of Him for all of it.


The summer I got my butt handed to me by 7-month-olds

This week has been one of the best weeks of my year:

You guys, having a daughter who really did live the dream and go off across the country to college? It’s super hard, but when she comes home it is that much more super-glorious.

(This fact does not remotely prepare me to discuss the short three years I have left with Mia before she moves off to the downstairs bedroom and goes to community college for two years before going for a bachelor’s degree at a local university and then settling in far away down the street: ALL THE TEARS.)

Another fun thing that’s been going on every day at 10:30 a.m. and 6:10 p.m. :

Babies cry, and twin babies cry double, and Indie’s mutant powers have presented earlier than we expected, so if you’re driving by our house and you hear what sounds like earth-shattering nuclear blast followed by defeated sobbing, it’s just the fallout from Indie’s super-sonic screaming; carry on. (Hahahahaha help me.)

I wish to God I had at least six more hands so that the clone I need to make of myself would be a helper of maximum efficiency.

I’ve spent way too many moments sobbing into the spit-up covered carpet because of how overwhelmingly hard–nay, IMPOSSIBLE–it is to take care of all people and things at once, and my sweet attentive husband recognizes the potential for a complete nervous breakdown and/or aneurysm when he sees it–so he arranged for a hiking day followed by a one-night stay at a nearby hotel, while some brave (and I do mean BRAVE) friends of mine have agreed to tag team with Cheyenne (also brave; maybe even more brave because she’s been hanging around all week and she knows 100% exactly what she’s getting into) and spend a day in the bloody trenches of pleasure in our lovely home getting the mental beating of a lifetime taking care of our inhumanly loud gleeful and expressive small children.

(#straightvaliant)

I’m only freaking out at about a 7 on a scale of 1 to 10, which is excellent for me considering Lucy, Duncan, and Indie have never been left overnight; y’all I am genuinely concerned for the ears and tickers of our gracious volunteer baby-wranglers cause this four-kids-under-the-age-of-4-plus-a-tween-and-a-teen business is the realest most hard thing ever.

I hope they enjoy baby cuddles.

I hope they’re Berenstain Bear fans. I wonder what Arbor will say? Probably a story (peppered with sentence-enhancers) about an alien-witch that lives in her front yard; maybe a story about the injustice of mothers who hide a secret stash of chocolate chips on the top shelf of the pantry and don’t share (obviously fictional).

Also: quiet time alone in nature with my husband. Hiking. I can already smell the fresh, triple-digit-hot air–and it smells like melted granola bars and a good night’s sleep.

Joking aside: yep it’s loudballs around here but these kids are freaking awesome and my friends are awesome and life is awesome. Here’s our little slice of heaven:


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